S.F. Chronicle: Trump Is Exaggerating Threat of MS-13, Leap Says

In its coverage of the Trump administration’s claims that its policies prevent members of the Salvadoran gang MS-13 from entering the United States to commit crimes, the Chronicle turned to Jorja Leap of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, who has studied MS-13 and other gangs. In reality, MS-13’s threat in Los Angeles, where the gang was born three decades ago, “is probably the lowest it has ever been,” Leap said. Constantly citing the danger of MS-13, as Trump has done, could backfire, helping MS-13 in recruiting. Leap said, “Along with being erroneous, he is giving them oxygen. Donald Trump is acting as a one-man publicity band for MS-13.” Leap also contributed to a recent visual storytelling piece about MS-13 by the New York Times. And she previously spoke to the L.A. Daily News about the search of a new Los Angeles police chief.


 

A Call to Action Two-day UCLA Luskin Lecture event champions academic research to help community activists promote societal change to address issues such as inequality, urban displacement and California’s ongoing housing affordability crisis

By Cristina Barrera and Les Dunseith

In Los Angeles during a time that is so rife with political conflict, it’s hard to find a topic upon which everyone seems to agree. But UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy quickly honed in on just such an issue during her opening remarks at a two-day event convened by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, speaks during the recent Luskin Lecture “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities.” Photo by Les Dunseith

“Rent is too damn high,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin.

Her declaration generated rousing applause from the crowd of about 250 students, scholars, community organizers, local residents and other stakeholders who gathered on April 26-27, 2018, at L.A. Trade Technical College near downtown Los Angeles to ponder the lack of affordable housing and other issues that are of special importance to residents in lower-income areas such as South L.A.

Participants in the event, “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities,” also learned of recent research and discussed solutions to problems such as urban displacement, racialized policing, criminal justice debt, forced labor, and the mass supervision and control of youth.

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura welcomed the crowd, telling them that the event was part of the Luskin Lecture Series, which is intended to enhance public discourse for the betterment of society.

“The Luskin School is home to three public-facing departments. I want to emphasize that — public facing,” Segura said. “I like to say that the Luskin School of Public Affairs puts the public back in public higher education research institution.”

Roy said one of the goals of the institute she directs is to share “freedom dreams” through research and teaching. “We borrow this beautiful phrase, freedom dreams, from our rock at UCLA, Robin D.G. Kelley,” said Roy, referring to writings by the esteemed UCLA distinguished professor of U.S. history.Freedom, Robin notes, is an integral part of the black radical tradition and its global imagination.”

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy is certain that “university-based theory and research has a role to play in transforming unequal cities,” Roy said. “But II&D is also certain that this role can only be meaningful when it is in humble partnership with social movements and community-based organizations that are on the frontlines of struggle.”

Photos from the event:

Freedom Dreams

Holding the event at L.A Trade Tech rather than on the UCLA campus was about more than geography.

“Here in South L.A., there are fierce struggles for self-determination, for black and brown power, for resistance in defiance of banishment,” Roy said.

Over the course of one evening and almost a full day of programming that followed, attendees heard from a variety of speakers and engaged in discussions during workshops that included representatives not only from UCLA and L.A. Trade Tech, but also from the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Urban Habitat, Right to the City Alliance, and a wide variety of community-based organizations such as the Watts Leadership Institute and Loving Hands Community Care.

Attendees also were treated to music and dance from “Lockdown Unplugged” by Bryonn Bain & the Lyrics Crew. Funmilola Fagbamila, a founding member of Black Lives Matter LA, also presented a stirring spoken-word performance derived from her recent play, “Woke Black Folk.”

In addition to Roy and Segura, speakers from UCLA included:

  • Paul M. Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning, social welfare and Asian American students and the director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who spoke about recent research that found little progress in improving the lives of residents in South L.A since the Kerner Commission report in the 1960s.
  • Manuel Criollo, activist-in-residence at II&D, who talked about his research into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline that often results when school police officers focus primarily on punishing youthful offenders rather than dealing with the underlying societal issues that lead many youth to commit antisocial acts.
  • Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and director of the Watts Leadership Institute, who was joined on-stage by Kathy Wooten of Loving Hands Community Care for a discussion of that nonprofit organization’s efforts to serve families of murder victims, specifically mothers who have lost a child to violence.
  • Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director at the UCLA Labor Center and director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, who noted that 50 percent of black workers in South L.A. are either unemployed or earning subminimum wage.

The second day of the event focused heavily on problem-solving strategies and advice for organizing to promote solutions. Three separate workshops took place, producing discussions about the shared vision of many attendees to use research and analysis as a foundation to build proposals that will result in meaningful societal change.

A wrap-up session was moderated by Roy and Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

The event was an opportunity “to be and think together,” Roy said, “in what is often a divided city with dispersed urban life. Now at II&D we take up some new mandates of research and action that emerged from this convening.”

Additional participants at the event included T.R.U.S.T. South LA, Union de Vecinos, Time for Change, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, L.A. Coop Lab, Long Beach Residents Empowered, THRIVE Santa Ana, Right to the City Alliance, CD Tech, A New Way of Life Re-entry Project, Back on the Road Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Debt Collective, Million Dollar Hoods, Journey House, Social Justice Advocate, Urban Youth Collaborative, #cut50, Underground Scholars Initiative, Black Organizing Project and InsideOut Writers.

Visit the II&D website for workshop reports.

On-camera interviews:

Recordings of the live streaming that took place each day:

Day 1

Day 2

Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light Experts at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare event laud recent moves to divert more youth from the criminal justice system and into programs that help them transform their lives

By Les Dunseith

On March 13, 2018, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare hosted an event that featured two panels of experts in youth justice engaged in critical conversations about efforts to intercede on behalf of troubled young people before they become entangled in a corrections system that often perpetuates a cycle of crime and punishment.

The event was organized by Professor Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, building on themes outlined in her recent book co-authored with Diane Terry MSW ’04 PhD ’12, who is a senior research associate at Loyola Marymount University: “Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth.”

The first panel was moderated by Jorja Leap MSW ’80 PhD ’89, an adjunct professor of social welfare. It focused on diversion, a process that enables young people in contact with the justice system to bypass formal prosecution if they meet specific criteria and successfully complete a program that fits their potential needs (such as restorative justice and counseling).

The panelists included retired Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, the director of the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry, who has played a leadership role in recent efforts to reframe how L.A. County handles youth when they first get into trouble with the law. He described the significance of the County Board of Supervisors’ recent motion creating a new Office of Youth Diversion and Development, which will be overseen by Espinoza within his office.

“That action culminated almost a year of work where disparate justice partners, community organizations and law enforcement came together to try to hammer out what became an 80-page road map for youth diversion in Los Angeles County,” Espinoza explained.

The new model will “divert youths at first point of contact with law enforcement and not at the point of arrest,” Espinoza noted.

Panelists Gloria Gonzales and Kim McGill are organizers with the Youth Justice Coalition, one of the community-based groups that will be providing some of the services for the new diversion program. Both have personally had experiences with juvenile justice systems in the past. Out of their commitment to systems change, they have also been part of this effort and expressed cautious optimism.

“It’s at the point where this is the best start to building a relationship between the community-based organizations and the police and law enforcement agencies,” Gonzales said. “But I also know that is going to be a really, really hard new model to establish.”

“We have a really strong plan,” McGill said about the effort, which she participated in creating. “But how do we make a dream real in L.A. County?”

Panelist Sean Kennedy, the former director of the federal public defender’s office who now serves as director of the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, observed: “I think this is a great start. But, in the past, diversion is often too limited. Too many great kids are excluded.”

Although Leap and the four panelists all said they view the new approach as being a positive development, similar efforts in the past have fallen short in part because of outmoded attitudes that emphasized punishment of youth without dealing with the root causes of their actions.

“Diversion, in my view, isn’t about accountability – although I guess that is a part of it,” Kennedy said. “It’s really about addressing unaddressed trauma, seeking to heal damaged kids, and — and I think this is too often overlooked — education advocacy to deal with problems in the schools where they often first arise.”

Abrams moderated a second panel that focused on the concept of desistance, which relates to efforts by individuals to cease — or at least moderate — the attitudes, behaviors and habits that contributed to criminal justice involvement. Desistance is often defined as the gradual process of establishing a new, crime-free lifestyle.

Terry offered examples from her book with Abrams to illustrate that desistance is far more complicated than simply forcing someone to abide by the law.

“Desistance is a process,” Terry said. “It does not happen linearly; it’s fluid. But it starts with the changes that the young people themselves are trying to make.”

Panelist Harry Grammer is founder and president of New Earth, which provides arts, educational and vocational programs to empower youth ages 13-25 to transform their lives and move toward positive, healthier life choices. He applauded the contributions of academics to the transformative justice movement, but cautioned the many students in attendance against viewing young people only as they fit into groups or populations for statistical purposes.

“This is important if you are going to be doing research or evaluations on anyone,” Grammer said. “If you don’t understand their culture, where they come from, the foods that they eat, who they love in their lives, then there is no way to build a true rapport.”

Chuck Supple, director of the Division of Juvenile Justice for the California Department of Corrections, flew in from the Sacramento area to participate in the panel discussion and express his support for research and policy that changes the ways that society deals with young people who have gotten into trouble.

“We hope to be able to play a part in helping to develop new skills to reduce risk while they are in DJJ, but, more importantly, to be able to build strengths that are going to transcend into the community,” Supple told an audience of about 50 people at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center.

“It’s not just doing no harm, but going back into the community and playing important roles in terms of employment, education and community involvement. It’s helping them to change the very conditions that led to them coming to us in the first place,” he said.

The evening closed with an emphasis on the factors that will play out in the implementation of both the diversion plan and ongoing desistance.

“It’s critical to think about the key themes that emerged from both panels – the importance of paying attention to individual youth as well as the need for lasting systems change,” Leap said. “These two poles are connected, always, by the crucial role played by the community – the nonprofit organizations, the families and the residents – who are all involved and part of the change that is underway.”

 

A Life of Social Work Dedicated to Children and Families Friends and former colleagues gather in tribute to former educator Joycelyn ‘Joy’ Crumpton, ‘an inspiration to everyone around her’

By Stan Paul

Joycelyn Anita McKay Crumpton — “Joy” to all who knew her — spent more than three decades dedicated to a career in social work and helping others.

The former Social Welfare field faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who passed away in September 2017, was known for working to create positive change through education, leadership and service where she worked and taught, as well as in the communities where she lived.

Family, friends, faculty, colleagues and former students got together on March 8 at UCLA’s Faculty Center to honor Crumpton’s contributions to the field of child welfare, diversity, and spirituality in social work practice, to celebrate her life and share memories. In addition, a memorial fellowship fund in her name has been established so MSW student recipients may carry Joy’s legacy as leaders and change agents.

View photos from the memorial gathering on Flickr:

Joy Crumpton Memorial

“Joy was loved and respected by students, faculty and community members,” said Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education in Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin. “She could always be counted on for support, wisdom, and a smile or hug,” he added. As news of Crumpton’s passing spread into the community and among alumni, Laviña, also a UCLA Luskin MSW alumnus, noted that Crumpton’s “positive spirit and words are carried forward through the many MSWs she taught.”

Contribute to the Joy Crumpton Memorial Fellowship Fund.

At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton MSW ’80 also served as project coordinator of the Title IV-E California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) stipend program for MSW students, a post she held from 2004 until her retirement in 2012. Previously, she served as associate director of the UCLA Center on Child Welfare, Inter-university Consortium from 1992 to 1996. In addition, she spent many years in curriculum development and training implementation focused on child abuse and neglect. At the core of her work was the determination to impact those in need — children, adults and families, according to friends, family and colleagues.

“Joy was an inspiration to everyone around her,” said Wanda Ballenger MSW ’73, longtime friend and colleague, who met Crumpton in the 1980s. In 1992, Ballenger hired Crumpton as associate director of the Center on Child Welfare. “Joy was a very social person, who was better at being ‘on,’ ” when it came to meetings and presentations, added Ballenger. In fact, Crumpton was a talented and inspirational speaker. Her audiences included children and youth, parents, graduate students, social workers, probation officers, public health nurses, judges, court officers, community advocates, clergy members, and university faculty and staff, as recounted in a memorial posted online.

In additions to positions at UCLA, Crumpton held a number of training and instructional positions, including lead trainer for the Bay Area Academy and child welfare ombudsman for the Health and Human Services Agency of the city and county of San Francisco. She also founded and directed Family Tree, which provided training and consultation services related to child welfare.

Ballenger said the two stayed in touch despite being far apart. Ballenger recalled that when her husband received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, even though Joy was fighting her own battle with cancer, she would call every week. “She was just that kind of person,” Ballenger said. “I really miss her. Joy was my sister.”

Throughout Crumpton’s career, she taught and provided fieldwork instruction at a number of institutions, including UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, San Francisco State University, and USC’s Center on Child Welfare. At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton taught graduate courses in cross-cultural awareness, international social work, advanced child welfare practice and the program’s child welfare seminar. She also collaborated with the University of Ghana to develop a cultural immersion and fieldwork internship for MSW students working in key social service agencies in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.

Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of social welfare, remembered her longtime friend and colleague from their early days as MSW students in the same class at UCLA.

“Joy was one of those who knew early on how to collaborate — how to work with difficult people in all groups — she was a mediator so much of the time,” said Leap, recalling an earlier and far different time in social work. “So much of it involving marginalized populations,” Leap said. “Joy knew early on to work within institutions and organizations to make change.”

Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90, former director of field education for Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, also had the privilege of working with Crumpton.

“Whenever Joy Crumpton walked into a room, she would light it up,” Nunn said. “Her first name said it all. With an infectious sense of humor and a winning smile she did indeed live up to her name by bringing joy.”

In addition to discussing their children and families, Nunn and Crumpton talked about time each spent coincidentally as children in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Crumpton was born in New Orleans.) “Through one of those it’s-a-small-world experiences, we discovered that she grew up four doors away from my cousins who I visited many summers from my home in Los Angeles.”

Citing her background in direct practice, classroom teaching and training, Nunn said in an email: “Joy had a strong commitment to the children served by the public child welfare system. Whether discussing policy issues or practice interventions her strong analytical skills and compassion for this population were evident. ”

He added: “Joy’s engaging personality made it possible for her to quickly connect with others and thus building collaborative relationships was one of her talents. In summary, Joy had class and style like few before her.”

Panel on Youth Justice in Los Angeles

This event is intended to spark critical conversations among students, researchers, activists, and policy makers about the many changes in youth justice. Some themes will include: financial reinvestment as a result of decarceration, the role of the voluntary sector in community-based alternatives, and how LA and California can pave the way for transformative youth justice.

At the event, we will feature some recent research from UCLA related to transforming youth justice from the school-to-prison pipeline all the way to desistance in emerging adulthood, including Professor Laura Abrams and Diane Terry (MSW ’04, PhD ’12)’s recent book on LA youth: Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth.

Diversion: Professor Jorja Leap MSW ’80 (Moderator)
Hon. Peter Espinoza, Director, Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry
Gloria Gonzales, Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition
Sean Kennedy, JD, Director, Center for Juvenile Law and Policy
Kim McGill, Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition

Desistance: Professor Laura Abrams (Moderator)
Harry Grammer, Founder and President, New Earth
Chuck Supple, Director, Division of Juvenile Justice, CDCR
Diane Terry MSW ’04, PhD ’12, Senior Research Associate, Loyola Marymount University

*** RSVP here ***

Reception to be hosted by the Department of Social Welfare

Book signing to follow the event

Watts Leadership Institute Hosts Visit by Elementary School Students

More than 45 students from Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in Watts spent the afternoon of Feb. 7, 2018, touring the UCLA campus thanks to the efforts of the UCLA Luskin-based Watts Leadership Institute (WLI) and GRoW@Annenberg. The daylong adventure for the students —  known as “Keepers of the Dream” — was organized by Mike Cummings, also known as “Big Mike” or “Pastor Mike,” who is the executive director of We Care Outreach Ministries and a member of the first leadership cohort for WLI. The students started the day by visiting the middle school and high school they will attend, then traveled to UCLA, where they had lunch in the Covel Commons. The UCLA “Cub” tour, which began at the Bruin statue in the heart of the campus, was coordinated Melanie Edmond, principal of Joyner Elementary School. The group also met with Jorja Leap ’78 MSW ’80 PhD ‘88, adjunct professor of social welfare and co-founder of WLI, a 10-year initiative to build a legacy of indigenous leaders and community empowerment in Watts. Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, also participated. She said the inspiration and sponsorship of the program by GRoW@Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the Annenberg Foundation, has been instrumental to their efforts.

View a Flickr album of images from the students’ visit to UCLA:

Watts Institute Visits UCLA

A Grassroots Mission in Watts UCLA Luskin’s Watts Leadership Institute launches a 10-year program to build a legacy of leaders and empowerment

By George Foulsham

WATTS — If you’re searching for the heartbeat of the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute, look no further than 10360 Wilmington Ave. in Los Angeles. What was once a liquor store is now the home of the multi-faceted Watts Century Latino Organization.

On a recent Saturday, more than 70 volunteers gathered here to help with a grassroots task: assemble and plant a community garden. The event was part of the citywide Sharefest Community Workday, but it represented much more for Jorja Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and for the Watts Leadership Institute’s first cohort — community members who hold the key to deepening the indigenous leadership of Watts.

“This is the beginning,” Leap said as the volunteers spread mulch around four large planter boxes. “We’re going to be bringing in youth from the various middle and high schools throughout the area. They’re going to be learning about gardening, they’re going to be learning about healthy eating, and they’re going to be developing strategies for contributing to their community.”

It’s just one example of what the Watts Leadership Institute hopes to bring to a part of L.A. that Leap has been engaged in since she was a social welfare graduate student at UCLA in the 1970s. Leap and project partner Karrah Lompa MSW ’13 have launched an institute that’s making a 10-year commitment to Watts.

The Watts Leadership Institute received its key initial funding through a two-year, $200,000 grant from the California Wellness Foundation. In turn, the WLI GRoW Community Garden is supported by a two-year, $100,000 grant from GRoW @ Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, dedicated to supporting humanitarian efforts across the globe as well as innovative projects in health, education, the arts and civic & cultural life. The Sharefest Community Workday provided additional support for the community garden from Sharefest, the Mars Corporation and Our Foods.

“This kind of a public-private partnership, along with the research attached to it — and the building of the Watts community — really represent the best of how all of these different factors can come together,” Leap said. “It represents part of UCLA’s continuing and growing commitment to communities like Watts that need our involvement, our engagement, our organizing, our research. We’re also learning from them and being taught by them.”

The garden project marked the first time that the institute’s cohort was able to engage Watts residents — and many other volunteers — in the community garden, according to Lompa. “The community was able to get their hands dirty, to help make the garden a reality and to take ownership,” she said. “The volunteers included cohort members, institute fellows, UCLA students and alumni, community members, corporate volunteers and representatives from the Annenberg Foundation. It was everybody coming together to launch the community garden.”

Among the community members in the institute’s first cohort are Pahola Ybarra and her father, Arturo Ybarra. Pahola is program manager and Arturo is the founder and executive director of the Watts Century Latino Organization, which has galvanized the growing Latino population in Watts. The center’s programs are credited with helping to build significant bridges between Latinos and African-Americans. To accomplish this, Pahola and Arturo are among the community leaders recruited by Leap as part of the initial leadership cohort in the institute.

When she approached the Ybarras about becoming part of the institute, Leap asked for guidance about the best way to bring Latinos in the community aboard. Pahola suggested teaching Latino leaders how to start a 501(c)3 nonprofit as a way to “teach them how to do bigger things in the community,” Ybarra said.

It’s only 2.1 square miles, but Watts has more than 190 nonprofits. The problem, according to Ybarra, is that there has always been overlap in the services offered by the various nonprofits.

“What Watts Leadership did was to help us come together, to put our resources together, and be an example for the rest of the nonprofit and leadership community in Watts,” Ybarra said. “It’s been an amazing effort to help us grow, and to help us get out of our own way. It encourages us to reach for as much as we can and do as much as we can in the community.”

Leap often draws upon social welfare professor Zeke Hasenfeld’s Luskin research, which initially characterized Watts as a “nonprofit desert,” but she’s hoping the institute can change that perception by training the first cohort of leaders who will then share their knowledge with a second and a third generation. One of the institute’s goals is to build a comprehensive infrastructure of nonprofits in Watts and use it as a model to build indigenous leadership. That was part of the strategy of the WLI GRoW Community Garden and it was kicked off on this volunteer day.

“This probably doesn’t look like an economic development project now,” said John Jones III, field deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents Watts. “But in the future, when things are growing from here, different businesses might come and buy the fruits and vegetables from here that will help this nonprofit thrive.”

Jones credits Leap and Lompa with teaching community members how to build a better community. “When the Watts Institute grows, this organization will be stronger, it will be better, and the Watts community will be better because of the lessons they learned,” Jones said.

That legacy approach is key to the success of the institute, Leap said.

“We will serve those within the community who will lead and will teach,” she said. “This way, we not only build capacity, we build a continuum of leadership that is cross-generational. Luskin is not going to leave, but we ultimately want Watts in the lead.”

Cohort member Kathryn Wooten, the founder and executive director of Loving Hands Community Care, is a lifelong resident of Watts whose organization was struggling until she was recruited by Leap to be a part of the institute. As part of the cohort training, Wooten and others were provided with computers and trained in how to use them.

“It’s almost too good to be true,” Wooten said. “Since I’ve been a part of it, my organization is more professional. I have all the things I need to run a business because of the cohort and their guidance. I now know how to use a computer.”

Leap’s approach to this project is motivated by a powerful sense of duty.

“This is my way of paying back,” she said. “I did come here in 1978 as a very callow MSW student, and the Watts community took me under its wing and taught me. UCLA afforded me the opportunity to learn here. This community has given a great deal to me, and it is my responsibility and my honor to pay that back, to listen and to really serve in the most meaningful way that I can.”

Social Welfare professor receives grant to create center in Watts Jorja Leap awarded a $200,000 two-year funding commitment

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Social Welfare professor Dr. Jorja Leap has been awarded a $200,000 two-year funding commitment from the California Wellness Foundation to create the UCLA Luskin Watts Center for Nonprofit Management. This funding will support the first phase of a ten‐year initiative designed to respond to a critical need for leadership expansion and support within nonprofit agencies. In response to the UCLA Luskin 2013 report, “Spread Thin: Human Services Organizations in Poor Neighborhoods,” the Center represents an effort to develop leadership, fundraising capacity, policy advocacy and communication technology among the small and struggling nonprofit agencies of Watts.

What differentiates the Center’s approach from similar programs is its unique integration of adapted training, mentoring and resource provision through re‐granting. The Center will offer active, ongoing leadership development, focusing on the use of communication technology, fundraising diversification and strategy, as well as expanding knowledge and skills in policy advocacy.

The Center will pair each nonprofit agency participant with a dedicated UCLA coach‐mentor. The coach‐mentor will provide organizational case management and support, along with reinforcing what is learned through trainings and communicated throughout group sessions. The role of the coach‐mentors will include problem‐solving, consultation on adaptation and application to ensure learnings truly apply both to needs and programming in Watts and within the scope of the work the participant is engaged in, along with general support and accountability. In addition, to foster sustainability, coach‐mentors will be building skills in the first cohort of selected individuals, preparing them to mentor subsequent cohorts composed of the next generation of Watts nonprofit leaders.

The Watts Center for Nonprofit Management will launch in January 2016.

 

Leap Honors Dads in ‘Project Fatherhood’ In her new book, Social Welfare professor Jorja Leap tells stories of former gang members who have decided to commit to their roles as fathers

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By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

In her first book, Jumped In, Social Welfare professor Jorja Leap told the story of her life as a “ganster anthropologist,” and an observer and advocate for the young men and women caught up in the life of gangs. Her new book, Project Fatherhood, is about the life that some of these men have chosen to live after leaving the streets—as fathers to their sons. In an environment where involved fathers were hard to find, these men are committed to changing the dynamic for their children.

Leap sat down for this Q&A in advance of the book’s release party on Thursday, June 4.

How did you first become involved with Project Fatherhood?

I’ve known Mike Cummings [co-facilitator of Project Fatherhood] for 15 years. I wrote about him in my first book, and he called me about this group he was starting  with the Children’s Institute. They needed a social worker to co-lead the group, so I literally jumped at the chance. I have been actively involved as a social worker and researcher, trying to help people all of my life.

What made you interested specifically in the Watts community and this project?

I got my MSW at UCLA in 1978 and started working in Watts. I see it as the community I belong to—my parents are from South LA and I was born and raised there for part of  my life. I’m committed to it.

How does Project Fatherhood work differently from other gang intervention programs? What makes it effective?

It’s completely different, especially in its development. Without any organization or guidance, these are former gang members who wanted to reach out [to their children] and be fathers. We all know that the absence of fathers is a huge youth risk factor that leads to a lot of problems in school and community-based activities. It’s a terrible burden for young people that affects them throughout their lives. Project Fatherhood is more like a gang prevention program. Youth with incarcerated fathers find father mentors [through Project Fatherhood], which softens the cycle of life for the next generation. This is also a way for men who were former gang members to father one another. They all grew up without fathers, and now they are helping each other learn to be fathers. It’s so incredible to witness and be part of this for 4 years.

One of the key research findings is the kind of strong leadership that already existed in community. If we are looking at how to rebuild communities in the future, we need leadership that comes from within the community.

How does this book differ from Jumped In?

Jumped In is about what studying gangs taught me. It was very personal. I discussed raising my own child, so it was a memoir as well as a humanizing story of gang members. This book [Project Fatherhood] is about the project—there’s a little about me but mostly it’s about them and the issue of poverty.

Working in the field, teaching at UCLA, and publishing a book each have a different scope of impact. What sort of impact do you hope to make with Project Fatherhood, and what do you hope readers will ultimately take away from the book?

My goal is that the program will be funded and supported. All the proceeds from the book go to Project Fatherhood, the men who really deserve this kind of funding.  I want the stories of these men to be out in the world. We also need to build leadership in the community, and we have to be the support for what exists in that community. UCLA Luskin plays an important role in this—the role of wanting to support and conduct research within these communities. It’s wonderful to be here and be part of a program working to build that kind of community strength.

I want readers to understand what the experience of these men is truly like, who these men are as human beings. I want to show the “new Jim Crow,” this issue of men of color being incarcerated for long periods of time, and what it cost them, their family and community. I also want people to have hope as they read and see how devoted these men are—this is not a problem story, but a hope story. I want to show that strength and dedication is out there.

How did the fathers react to your decision to write a book about them?

I was a little bit worried when I brought it up, but they were very positive, very proud and excited. In the past when I did Jumped In, I worked carefully to disguise the interviewee’s identities. As I interviewed the fathers [from Project Fatherhood] and asked how they felt about being named, they all said, “Don’t worry, you can use our names. Tell the truth.” They were so honest and so open in wanting to share. It was an overwhelming experience, seeing how meaningful their commitment was to the program.

The truth is, I always felt like I belonged in Watts, and this project strengthened my attachment, belief and commitment. People who read the book will understand that we [the fathers and I] had big fights—it was not all sunshine and roses. We really struggled, but we were very open about how we made each other angry. I could have never imagined that through the past four years, this closeness and understanding would develop.

How can the public contribute to a solution for gang violence and poverty in communities like Watts? Do you recommend any programs or resources that offer the chance for people to take action?

I am hoping to bring support for the programs that already exist, that are there and are working. I hope this book will help leadership development and economic development. These are good fathers, good providers who want jobs. They don’t want to raise kids on the county and public support—they want to make a living. It’s quite striking; many people think they want to live on welfare, but that is the farthest thing from the truth.

As part of the UCLA Luskin faculty, I will be sponsoring a book party on June 4. This is an all-day event, and we’re even bringing youth from Watts to tour UCLA and work out with the football team. Copies of the book will be available before the release date on June 9, or Father’s Day. [The event] is really not about me, but the fathers who will be there to speak about their experiences. I really urge the UCLA community to come out and hear their voices.

Jorja Leap

Jorja Leap has been a member of the UCLA faculty since 1992.

As a trained anthropologist and recognized expert in crisis intervention and trauma response, she has worked nationally and internationally in violent and post-war settings. Dr. Leap has been involved with training and research for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of post-war development and conflict resolution in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Closer to home, she worked with the families of victims of the 9/11 WTC disaster. Since that time, Dr. Leap has focused on gangs, youth development, juvenile and criminal justice, and reentry at the local, national and international level.  In 2011, Los Angeles Magazine named her one of five “Action Heroes” and in 2012 she was listed as one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Los Angeles.”  At UCLA in 2012, she was the recipient of the Joseph A. Nunn Alumnus of the Year Award.

Research and Community-based Initiatives

Dr. Leap’s research examines gangs, high-risk and system-involved youth, prison culture and the dilemmas faced by the formerly incarcerated working to reenter mainstream society. Her current work is ethnographically driven and community based — designed to inform policymakers and practitioners through rigorous research and evaluation-based knowledge and evidence. As part of these efforts, Dr. Leap is currently the Clinical Director of the Watts Regional Strategy and a member of the California Board of State And Community Corrections (BSCC) Gang Standing Committee.  She also serves as an advisor to the Los Angeles Unified School District Safety and Violence Prevention Executive Advisory Committee. As part of the Advancement Project, Dr. Leap helped to organize and establish the Violence Reduction Applied Research Group and now serves on the AP-Los Angeles County Probation Data Project Research Roundtable. Additionally, Dr. Leap is affiliated with The California Endowment, working as an Evaluation and Learning Specialist for its Building Healthy Communities Initiative.  Along with her efforts in Los Angeles, Dr. Leap serves as an expert reviewer on gangs for the National Institute of Justice. She has testified at local, state and federal legislative committee hearings and at numerous Congressional briefings. Additionally, Dr. Leap has spoken nationally and internationally on gang violence and youth development. She has also been appointed as an expert in death penalty sentencing hearings and has offered expert testimony in criminal cases involving youth and emerging adults.

Current Projects and Writing

Drawing on her expertise in qualitative research and ethnographic methodology, Dr. Leap has conducted numerous evaluations of anti-gang programs including Youth Uprising in Oakland, California and the Los Angeles Unity Collaborative Gang Intervention Program. In 2008, Dr. Leap and Dr. Todd Franke received funding from the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation to initiate a two-year longitudinal evaluation of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the United States, which was augmented by funding from The California Wellness Foundation and The California Endowment.  In 2010, they subsequently received funding through Los Angeles Countyto evaluate the HBI-Los Angeles County Gang Intervention and Re-entry Project. Together, these efforts will be expanded to ultimately follow the Homeboy program for five years, and will be the first longitudinal research study of anti-gang efforts ever completed.  Aligned with these efforts, in 2013 Dr. Leap traveled to Scotland to participate in the planning and evaluation of the “Braveheart Violence Intervention Program,” based on the Homeboy model, creating a learning partnership with St. Andrews University. She also is now serving as a qualitative research coordinator for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) Department.

In 2011, Dr. Leap began work on a two-year initiative funded by The California Wellness Foundation to inventory community-based efforts, conduct focused evaluation and build capacity in youth development programs throughout California. As an outgrowth of this initiative, she is now is the lead researcher on the Children’s Defense Fund Juvenile Justice Reform Policy Project.  She is also involved in research and community building efforts in South Los Angeles and is currently a lead member of the multi-disciplinary team implementing the parenting program, “Project Fatherhood,” in the Jordan Downs housing project of Watts, South Los Angeles. In addition, she serves as a member of the Jordan Downs Community Advisory Committee.  She is the also part of the UCLA research team funded by the California Community Foundation to evaluate its five year “Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men” (BLOOM) Initiative.  As a result of this work, Dr. Leap now serves as the Director of the UCLA Health and Social Justice Partnership.

Dr. Leap is the author of numerous evaluation reports, articles, book chapters as well as the book, No One Knows Their Names. She has recently completed a chapter on gang membership prevention for a book to be published jointly by the National Institute ofJustice and the Center for Disease Control as well as a chapter on Gangs, Violence and Drugs for the volume, Violence: A Global Health Priority to be published by Oxford University Press.   Her newest book, Jumped In:  What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love and Redemption was published by Beacon Press in March 2012.  All proceeds from this book will go to Homeboy Industries.  Dr. Leap is currently writing her next book, focusing on Project Fatherhood and the Watts community.

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